15 April 2013

Frogs in Pots & The State of the Union

My first blog contained “Meanderings” in the title. That pretty well describes it. At the time, I did not feel the need to write “tightly,” to reason in strict sequence or even to make a point. That blog was and this one is experiencing personal expression in a new format, with new listeners, and has been a part of my aging evolution where I care less and less about who does or does not agree with me.

Thank God I continue to learn, the proverbial “old dog.”

A nod goes to my friend and brother Oce Smith from whom I have learned so much assisting him with his newspaper column.

It’s been some weeks since the last post. I have cast around times for something pithy, for some tight, pointed post on some topic of public interest – or at least something of interest to me. Yet this is an unsettled time.

I don’t know how far to take Emerson’s notion of avoiding “foolish consistencies,” but I think we should be disturbed by substantial dissonance in our own minds.

I’m glad that this whole gun topic has risen in this nation. First, it is culturally important to me. Also, those competing for attention in the Marketplace of Ideas have gotten so wild in their claims that the illogic of their arguments and some structural weaknesses in reasoning are easier to see. The whole thing still presents a complicated picture and I’m still in the midst of setting my own thoughts in order.

There are indeed some evil things that some people and some groups do.

Ah, the title of the post:   I have heard it said that if you put a frog in very hot water, he will jump out. And yet, if you put a frog in cold water and heat it slowly, he will remain in the water until it is too late and he is cooked.

It is percolating in my mind that we are frogs on the stove. Our nation is changing in destructive ways, so slowly that we have not noticed. Unlike entropy, we are not going from organization to chaos, we are going from chaos to organization to concrete regimentation.

The price we may be paying is that of giving up “us,” ceding our individuality and individual powers and individual rights and our precious concept of self reliance on some murky notion of state-as-person.

By the way, I’m not making this as a tight argument tonight. I’m not citing much in the way of examples. To those who that bothers, piss off, write your own blog.

I walked with Republican Party until the mid-1980s. From my perspective, the party took an abrupt right face and walked into the wilderness. I was uncomfortable as a Democrat at first, but ultimately found some reasonable degree of comfort there. The kind of moderate principles advocated by President Clinton worked well. (Eight years of peace, prosperity and drastic national debt reduction, remember?)

Then, both parties begin using the state-as-person paradigm with a passion. They talked different games, but their policies were carbon copies. Government knows best, so take other people’s money and spend it on our pet projects. And so we’ve had a 13 year bipartisan effort of drunken sailor spending and blame evasion.

And We the People were so wrapped up in “What’s in it for me?” that we totally missed the flimflam.  “Oh, maybe [fill in the blank with your favorite party] will screw the other guy, but they’ll take care of me!”

What a bunch of dopes we can be.

As I say, the gun/violence debate has illustrated many manipulative tactics unclothed.  I hope this is a good lesson for us all. I hope that the “I got mine” crowd and the “daddy/mommy knows best” crowd have gotten cocky enough to let the disguise of all the lying slip.

Mind you, it’s still so much our fault – we are so gullible.

Take gun background checks. Few voices have said, let’s have a real discussion, talk about where the violence is coming from, who is using weapons, how they’re getting them, and what’s reasonable to do that is not already being done. By the way, I’m glad my friend Sen. Manchin is one of those few voices.

Of course anyone who admits to believing anything but an extreme ideology catches burning sulfur hell from both – or all – sides.

We have been so bombarded with statistics and polls about the “will of the people” on background checks. Everyone claims that a great majority of the public is with them. In the past week, I have seen politicians claim to have polling which shows that (1) 90% of Americans support expanded background checks and that (2) 31% of Americans support expanded background checks.

The funny part is, they probably actually have polls which say that.

We are so gullible. We accept poll numbers at face value. In truth, polls are notoriously unreliable as published because few actually are aimed at a neutral determination of the strength of public opinion. Politicos want to create their own bandwagon. So they commission a poll.


Respond to the following poll questions –

One – Would you support measures to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals and dangerously mentally ill people?

Two – Would you support passing laws which require private citizens to pay for background checks before they sell or give a gun to a friend?

Of course those questions are unfair. Welcome to Reality. It would take me a bit longer to write them with more subtlety, but I hope I’ve made a point here. If you know how you want your poll to turn out, you can write the survey instrument to order.

If you want to know the truth on any public issue, the same information that the politicos have, you need their “inside polling.” But you will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER see that.

Inside polling looks at trends for campaigns, whether political or issue-related. These campaigns commission polls that are indeed neutral, but they will never tell anyone any outsider the results. If they say they do, they are lying.

How do I know that? Because I’ve done it in political campaigns. You project confidence if you’re getting your ass kicked; you project fear if you’re way ahead.

News editors are some of the best Pied Pipers. I suppose you can say that because there are two sides, it evens out. It doesn’t. Two distortions do not equal clarity.

Today’s the day of the Boston Marathon bombing. The blogosphere actually has both sides claiming that this event “proves” that they are right. Anti’s say that it proves that armed citizens cannot stop violence, so we don’t need armed citizens. Pro’s are saying, Aha, bombs already are banned and that didn’t work.

In the news today, there’s been very little talk about a problem with violence.

What occupies my mind tonight is that so many people turn to government-as-person to solve problems.

Violence? Ban the instrument. Problem solved.

Fat people? No Big Gulps. Problem solved.

People losing jobs? Fork out extended unemployment, screw job training and job creation.  Problem solved.

Medical care?  Create Franken-HMO with lots of people with briefcases who will not be providing care. Problem solved.

The neighbor’s radio is too loud? Call the police. Problem solved.

Someone not nice to you? Get a restraining order. Problem solved.

The teacher in your kid’s school mentions God, not God, the word Nazi, the word evolution, the words creation/intelligent design – in other words, a teacher actually talks to kids about questions of interest – call the school board, and get the bastard fired. Problem solved.

Schools mandated to conduct classes in social bullshit? Stop teaching handwriting, government-as-person knows that we can depend on technology.  Problem solved.

My favorite: “I’m a conservative! Don’t touch my Medicare!”

We’ve all gotten into this habit. I certainly have. I do recall 20 years ago that I very strongly supported the idea of the seatbelt law and a motorcycle helmet law. It’s still true:  Only a fucking moron would drive without a seatbelt or ride a motorcycle without a helmet. So, no problem, make those a requirement of law. But if we do that, where do we stop?

I don’t know. Maybe we stop when we are starting to do really stupid, weak, puerile, cowardly, irresponsible nonsense.

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